Guest Post by Mitch – LDN Cards
So, you’d like to get involved with soccer cards, but you’re not sure where to start?
Maybe you’ve always been a fan of the sport, but you’re new to collecting. Perhaps you’ve always collected other sports, but you’ve just discovered the beautiful game. Maybe, you saw the incredible hype around the soccer card hobby during the Covid delayed Champions League, and you want a bit of the action.
Whatever your reason for wanting to get involved, know that you are not alone – in recent months, many people have taken their love of the beautiful game and extended it to ‘the hobby.’
After all, it was a hobby boom that was always coming. The most recent World Cup Final in 2018, hosted and won by the French, saw 1.1 BILLION viewers. The Premier League estimated that for their 18/19 season, they drew a viewership of 1.35 Billion, a growth of 11.5% in the prior year. These are huge numbers and give you some idea of the global appeal. Soccer is a juggernaut that keeps getting bigger. For comparison, the 2020 NFL Super Bowl drew an estimated 102 million viewers.
For many around the world, collecting football (as I know it) cards and stickers is second nature. I can only speak directly about my own experiences, but most of us know it as part of growing up as an Englishman. It was simple as a child – we had stickers, and sometimes cards, for each season and tournament – you collected the set and traded your ‘swaps’ – but now it’s true that times have changed and maybe collecting isn’t so simple from the outside looking in.
So, where to start?
There are plenty of topics to cover to bring you fully up to speed, but the first thing we need to talk about is the type of item you can collect. It doesn’t tend to go much further for most sports than cards, but for soccer, however, it is generally accepted that there are three main options that you can choose to collect.
1. TCG – Trading Card Games
You’ve probably seen these in stores, but you may not have looked twice at them. TCG cards are collectible soccer cards that can be used as playing cards. Think Pokemon or MTG, and you’ll get the idea.
These are typically targeted at a younger audience, and the price reflects this. That said, for some collectors, cards from these sets can hold genuine collectible value (if not always monetary) as it is frequently within these sets where many soccer stars make their first ‘hobby’ appearance.
Cast an eye at this year’s ‘Golden Boy’ shortlist, and you’ll struggle to find an earlier mass-produced item for Mitchel Bakker than his Adrenalyn card. What constitutes a rookie, or even a true-rookie, is often of immense consternation in the soccer hobby, but we will leave that for another day!
Brands to look for are both Panini with ‘Adrenalyn’ and Topps with ‘Match Attax.’ It may be that ‘Match Attax’ is a more recognizable brand name currently as they have benefited from a lot of hype due to inserting random autographs in their £1 packs (UK only).
If you want to buy these, you can find them in most of your stores, and you can also order them online direct from the manufacturers.
Across the world, stickers have been collected for a long time and in many forms. Everything from cards with areas you’d glue and stick down into albums to the modern style sticker you see now. Some of the oldest cards that vintage collectors hold in high regard were intended to be stuck down into an album.
Stickers are typically much cheaper than main hobby releases, and pricing for packs tends to be closer to what you’d pay for TCG cards.
Outside of the USA, stickers are likely most collectors’ entry point into the world of sports collecting. It’s easy, accessible, and has a massive nostalgia factor that draws someone like me back to them all the time. In the middle of a World Cup Summer, it isn’t rare to see a man in his mid-’30s sneaking a few packs of stickers into the shopping basket while out with the family as he tries to complete his album.
Why collect stickers now? Much like TCG, stickers can often be a superstar player’s earliest appearance but tend to carry more respect within the hobby. Want to pick up Erling Haaland’s ‘true rookie’? Well, I hope you like Austrian football stickers. Do you think Tariq Lamptey is the best full-back since Cafu? Again, grab yourself a sticker, my friend!
If you want to buy stickers, it boils down to your location. In Europe, you can buy these in your local stores or online from the manufacturer. In the US, you need to order them from the manufacturer or possibly turn to eBay for packs and boxes. Singles are available on eBay and, of course, through COMC.com!
3. Hobby Cards
As a third option, hobby cards are an area of enormous growth, both in terms of interest and monetary value. The premium releases are made by Panini and Topps, who hold varying licensing for different leagues, countries, and tournaments.
If you know the hobby, you already know the names, I’m sure – Panini Prizm, Panini Select, Topps Chrome, all popular releases, also seen in soccer year-on-year. This year we have even seen the release of Topps Bowman for the MLS!
These cards tend to be viewed as the creme de la creme and can often prove more popular than other items, even if they are not the first releases of a specific player. For example, Erling Haaland’s first release is his Austrian Bundesliga sticker, but for some, nothing can beat his Topps Chrome 19/20 card in Red Bull Salzburg colors. It’s all comes down to personal preference.
With this high level of desirability, there also come higher costs. The product does tend to be of better quality than TCG, and typically features include relic cards and top stars’ autographs. Topps Museum Collection was £100/$125 for eight cards, but you could potentially open up an autograph of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, or Robert Lewandowski – nothing to shrug at.
So, how do you buy these hobby cards? You’ve got options, particularly in the US. For boxes and packs, you can buy directly from the manufacturer, online retailers, and your local hobby stores. Many releases even feature cheaper ‘retail’ options, such as a blaster and cello packs, where the rewards are not so large, but the cost is far lower.
If you’re in the UK or Europe, the kicker has been a lack of access to hobby products for a long time, but that seems to be changing as both Topps and Panini offer limited availability direct from their online e-commerce websites. There’s nothing to stop you from ordering directly from the USA either, but you should think about customs and tax charges before you do.
Finally, if you don’t want to open packs yourself, you have the option of joining group breaks or buying singles on eBay or COMC just as you do any other sport. Group breaks for soccer have been fewer with the largest most well-known breakers, but they are often breaking new products as the interest increases.
I hope that a brief introduction to your options is a helpful first step into the world of soccer card collecting. I’ll be back with more features soon, but you can always reach out to me on social media or YouTube, and I’ll be happy to chat.
And with that, it just leaves me to wish you ‘happy collecting’!
About the Author:
Mitch is a London based sports card collector, with a Soccer Card focused YouTube channel and an ever-growing collection of David Beckham cards.